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Girl Talk blends together a helluva musical stew 

The first thought that runs through many minds when they hear the music of Girl Talk is usually, "How does this guy not get sued?" Many artists and musicians have been sued for much less. After all, Girl Talk not only uses riffs and rhythms from songs but also entire verses and choruses for his mash-ups.

The answer, when asked, is that Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) feels it falls under fair use — a doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material. He also feels like he's more of a promoter than some kind of thief and notes that he hasn't received any complaints from any artists yet. Considering that he uses a couple hundred samples on each album, that's worth noting.

"I guess when I started, I never had any vision that it would become as large as it has," Gillis says by phone from his Pittsburgh home. "I was familiar with the politics of it and knew about landmark cases like 2 Live Crew and Biz Markie. When the press started to pick it up more in 2006, I started to get more nervous about it. I do believe in what I'm doing and feel it should be under the fair use and copyright law that basically says you can use samples without asking for permission if the new work is transformative and not impacting the original artist in a negative way."

Gillis notes that until or unless someone takes him to court, he really doesn't know how the courts would rule. He says most of the public opinion comes from past cases that garnered national attention. Most of his albums are available for a "pay what you want" system via the website ironically named Illegal Art.

As for the band name, Gillis stated in a 2009 interview with FMLY that he picked it as a pop culture phrase — "Girl Talk sounded exactly the opposite of a man playing a laptop, so that's what I chose."

Gillis has released an album roughly every two years since 2002. While the tracks on Secret Diary are rougher and involve more repetition in a traditional DJ style, his newer albums are pure mash-ups. His latest, All Day, is meant to be played like one long song clocking in around 70 minutes. It kicks off with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" mixed with Jay-Z and Ludacris and ends with John Lennon's "Imagine" mixed with UGK's "One Day." There are samples by '80s bands such as a-ha, Banarama and Cyndi Lauper, alt-rock from Jane's Addiction and Fugazi, plenty of hip-hop and top-40 hits as well as classic rock from The Doors and The Clash — it's almost a continual game of "Name That Tune."

"I try to like as much as possible and do have a running list that I want to get to," Gillis says. "I also listen to a lot of music that I don't want to sample. It's very trial and error for me. I can try something with 100 different samples and 50 sound OK but it will eventually click. It's easy to find songs that match, but I usually take two years to put together an album."

He can't possibly do complete onstage mash-ups because the results more often than not could be horrific, so instead Gillis works out much of the show at home and has numerous options playing at once where he can duplicate a riff or vocal and mix and mash as the concert goes on.

His live performances are known for being a massive party, and almost chaotic. Within moments of the music starting, he's usually swarmed by audience members who jump barricades and get on stage. Gillis has toilet paper shot into the crowds, inflatable chairs passed around and is often seen dancing his ass off with everyone else.

With only two laptops on stage with him, his main priority is trying to protect them. Both are wrapped with Saran Wrap to prevent any kind of bodily fluids hitting the keyboards.

"The sets are pretty calculated and rehearsed, but I do trigger everything in real time," he says. "It has become more fine-tuned over the year but I do screw up occasionally and try new things. The shows have gotten a reputation over the years and now people come out with a certain mindset and people know they're going to go crazy. I just keep trying to ramp it up and make it better than the last time I played that city."

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